Apparently I really like doing mixes, so here, have another one! This is Broadway-heavy, in large part because DUETS (I have a marked preference for duets over . . . anything, really). Anyway, I tried to focus on telling the story of lovers in wartime, so that's the general theme. It starts with their first meeting and ends a bit after Robb's death. There are three songs about Jeyne's grief, and they're arranged the way they are because I see her as someone who would try not to be overtly emotional at first--who would grieve, but quietly, until at last the pent-up emotion got the better of her.
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I chose Sansa partly because she's one of my favorites, and partly because her story is so complex, her growth as a person subtle, well-documented, and transformative.This mix picks up after Ned's execution, tracing her development through AFfC, and ends on a hopeful note, as I would like to see her rise to a position of power as Queen of the North or even Queen on the Iron Throne. As the title suggests, it plays heavily on the bird imagery surrounding her, hopefully forming a cohesive set.
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- Current Mood: hopeful
Since I've already mentioned Glake, I'd like to talk about it a bit. This welcoming, friendly community is a joy to be a part of, and has already had a significant impact on me. First of all, it finally taught me how to write drabbles/ficlets, which is something I previously could not do. I've always been a long-format ficcer, which becomes a problem when I want to actually, you know, finish something. Right now, however, SMACKDOWN is happening! For those not in Glake, that's a massive fanfic competition, wherein pairings fight in a sort-of bracket system. Because the community already has quality standards, it's judged on quantity of fic produced for each pairing, so the methodology of a winning team is write like mad, generally speaking. Given that my first fight in the first round was also the most intense so far (Dom/Evin vs Jon/Zahir, which tied at first and then went through a sudden death round), I suddenly had to crank out fics to support my team, and in doing so I learned how to write quickly and concisely. I learned how to draw inspiration from anything and everything. Random word generators, songs, Shakespeare, the lighting in my room . . . you name it, I probably wrote fic about it. And I was not the most prolific writer by a long shot. I supported Jon/Zahir (Team Bend-a-lot), and we sadly lost, but it resulted in some fic I'm incredibly happy with and a ton of ideas for the future.
The only winning team I've been on so far is Gary/Raoul, which is a little sad, but just reading and reviewing the fic, no matter the pairing, has been a lovely experience. The average quality is astonishingly good, and the sheer volume of fic means that every genre, idea, unexplained bit of canon, and plot gets explored, probably multiple times.
So that's Goldenlake! Yay!
What else is new, you ask? Well, I'm back at school. After spring break. Which was after my term in London. Which I would write about now, but there is too much to say, and so I shall simply assert that it was awesome and mind-blowing and made of win.
As incredible as last term was, though, I do adore my college, and being back is lovely. I'm in fascinating (albeit difficult) classes, I love my friends with ever particle of my being, and the campus atmosphere is so comfortable and welcoming and homey and exciting. Just in hanging with the sci-fi and fantasy interest house, over the past week or so, I've ended up watching Inception, a German expressionist silent film called Metropolis, the first three Die Hard movies, and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. I think this is a good barometer for how awesome life here is. I've also returned to social dance, begun attending swing dance, picked up my violin again, gotten back into voice (which is really awesome because my voice suddenly decided to mature a bit and everything is easier and I love it), and stayed up late having ridiculous conversations.
So life is good. Great. Busy. But amazing.
- Current Location:School
- Current Mood: cheerful
- Current Music:Stephen Colbert singing Friday
This Christmas, I got an iPod Touch. I was stunned. I hadn't been expecting anything of the sort, but my uncle pulled my name in the family gift-giving draw, and being the wonderful person that he is, he knew exactly what I wanted/needed (?) even when I didn't. Plus, he's some sort of international businessman, so that helps with the affordability thing.
Point being: I have a portable music player. And believe me when I say that is its primary purpose. I know it has interwebs and all, and that's very exciting, but music is my lifeblood, and the ability to carry it with me, while not new (I have an old Zune, which is finicky and full), is intoxicating. I love it to death.
Which brings me to the second point: I have now downloaded iTunes. Now, any program that allows me to buy songs individually, or even full CDs, is incredibly dangerous for me. See, I'm addicted to music. I'm passionate about it in a way even I don't fully understand, with tastes broad enough that my playlists make me look schizophrenic. I can wax lyrical (pun intended) about musicals, classical, folk, rock (modern and classic), techno, opera, pop (if the artist has real talent and isn't just studio noise), indie, metal (especially symphonic), medieval and renaissance, hip hop (see pop note), and very rare instances of country (Dixie Chicks) and rap (some Eminem). You can probably see the problem iTunes presents. It's just too easy.
Predictably, within two nights, I have imported all my music from my Zune, bought two CDs worth of Glee (not counting the Christmas CD, which I got as a present, and a few other songs I really like) and Darren Criss's EP Human, and dug up the massive library of indie music a friend gave me last fall, in the process discovering that I love the Decemberists and Franz Ferdinand. I have promised myself I shall spend no more money on music for a long while, but it's right there!
We'll see how long my willpower holds out.
On a more positive note, this gift has allowed me to fully rekindle my ever-present love affair with music in all its variety. Here, mostly for myself, but also for posterity, are some things I adore.
1) GLEE. God, I love the show, and the music is often amazing. There are some exceptions, and the first season (especially the first half) seriously over-used autotune (a problem it still occasionally falls prey to, which makes no sense, given that almost the entire cast can sing for reals), but the rest is worth it. Some highlights:
...a) I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Rose's Turn, or any other solo sung by Chris Colfer (Kurt). He's a countertenor, which is rare, interesting to listen to, and drop-dead gorgeous. He's also a brilliant actor, and it often comes through in the expressiveness of his singing. LOVE.
...b) Teenage Dream, Hey Soul Sister, and Baby It's Cold Outside. Okay, two confessions: first, I'm head-over-heels in love with Darren Criss (Blaine), and second: I'm a serious Kurt/Blaine (Klaine) shipper. With that said, I also love these songs because the first two manage to turn overplayed pop songs into fun, interesting a cappella pieces, and the third is adorable. Full stop. And beautifully sung.
...c) Hello. Jonathan Groff (Jesse St. James) and Lea Michele (Rachel) co-starred as the leads in Spring Awakening in Broadway, and this song proves they haven't forgotten how to sing together. It's absolutely lovely.
...d) Dream On. This needs very little explanation. It's a rock classic sung (flawlessly) by Matthew Morrison (Will) and Neil Patrick Harris (Bryan Ryan). *swoon*
...e) And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going. A heart-rending song, and Amber Riley (Mercedes) does it justice, which is really difficult to pull off.
...f) Don't Rain On My Parade. Lea Michele has a gorgeous voice, which she doesn't always use fully as Rachel, but occasionally they give her a Broadway classic to belt. Then she cuts loose, and it's amazing.
2) Franz Ferdinand. I know, total opposite of Glee. They're a Scottish indie rock band, generally characterized with rough guitar, strong beats, and talky singing. I find their music catchy and sexy in a very raw way. Especially the songs Michael and Do You Want To. Rawr.
3) I already mentioned Darren Criss for Glee, but he also writes his own music. I really love his voice, and his songs are sweet and pop-y, while still original enough to stick in my head. Not Alone in particular makes me very, very happy.
4) Coldplay. A lot of their music is hauntingly beautiful.
5) This parody of California Girls. Mostly because hearing/watching Seth Green (a.k.a. Oz in Buffy) rap about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and other geekery reminds me how much I love geek boys.
I could go on for hours about the music I love (it sort of feels like I already have), but I'll cut it off there. You get the picture. iPod = awesome, Glee = love, music = addiction.
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: happy
- Current Music:Glee. So much Glee.
But what does that mean? What do finals entail? How has the atmosphere of the school changed? Well, this post will attempt to answer some of those questions, mainly through disjointed and silly anecdotes, strung together by themes. Sort of.
(And if you were wondering how I have time to post during finals, I have it rather easy this term. Boo yah.)
Finals Week: The Academics
Let me brag for a moment. I attend a small, exclusive liberal arts school. It consistently ranks in the top ten such colleges in the nation. The education one receives here is, generally speaking, phenomenal. What this means for finals is that they are often brutal. My load this term is startlingly light (for tenth week, I mean), but the overall air of the student body is slightly (or very) panicked, overworked, with that frantic edge of sleep deprivation. People lock themselves in the library or computer lab for hours on end. Some illustrative stories about my friends:
One guy has a total of 45 pages spread out over three papers to write in less than a week. He considers this to be manageable.
Another close guy friend arrived at the library today four minutes before it opened. All of the large study rooms were already taken. How is this possible? No one knows. Nevertheless, he still has computer science final project, a ten-page English paper, and six pages remaining of a poli sci paper to finish in three days.
And let me clarify what I mean be my load being light: I already had my Spanish final essay (written in class, a rather terrifying prospect), oral exam, and turned in the abstract for my term-long project in Astronomy. I have yet to give my presentation on the project and take the final exam in Shakespeare. That is relatively little work.
So, for the students, a common bond is formed in adversity. Massive amounts of caffeinated drinks are consumed, the library is constantly full, and every available seat hosts a person with a laptop. We all work furiously and desperately hope it pays off.
Finals Week: The Silliness
One can imagine that, with all this pressure, finals tends to also drive the students a bit stir-crazy. This manifests itself on Reading Days (the two days leading up to finals period in which nothing happens and it is wonderful). At Late-Night Breakfast, the administration serves waffles and gives away sparkly sequined masks and inflatable M&Ms. At the Library Silent Dance party, a huge portion of the student body downloads the same playlist, takes their portable music-playing device down to the first floor of the library (where people glare at you if you unzip your backpack too loudly) and dance without making a sound. They wend their way upwards and then out across campus, dancing on tables and bookcases and out on the grass, grinding and jiving and doing swing and ballroom and latin. Movie nights are planned, parties are had, and everything is underlaid with work and studying.
For my part, I had a slashy movie night with friends. We watched Star Trek (the new one) and Sherlock Holmes (also the new one) and fangirled until the early morning. We made immature jokes and debated the physics of sci fi. We had a poking fight that somehow ended with several people in handcuffs (don't ask). In short, we indulged in pure fun as much as possible. It was glorious.
So. That is some sort of idea of how finals week works. It is at once a miserable and fantastic experience. I can't decide whether I'll miss it next term.
Now, I actually still have work to do, including packing to make my way home.
- Current Location:Student center
- Current Mood: busy
- Current Music:This is Gallifrey, Our Childhood, Our Home - and other Doctor Who music
Most of this is due to my Shakespeare class, which has been throughout this term one of the best and brightest things in my life. Today was recitation day. We had a quiz on the Tempest, which I aced with ease, and then I watched my classmates recite pieces of the work of one of my favorite writers with passion, clarity, and good humor. I heard old favorites ("To be or not to be," "St. Crispin's Day," "Now is the winter of our discontent") and new loves ("I left no ring with her," "Who's him that says I am a villain"). I saw some of the quietest people give moving performances, and no one suffered a crisis.
As to my own speech, I was put last, and so my stage fright (incredibly strong though I've performed my whole life) was in full force. I was doing the "Soft! I did but dream" soliloquy from Richard III, a work that by turns awes, excites, and terrifies me. In that speech, that personal musing born out of the horror of a nightmare and the pangs of guilt, the charming, villainous, magnetic, ambitious, nigh-invulnerable Richard has his downfall, and it is no one else's doing. He simply loses faith in himself and his right to upend the world for his goals. It is a portrait of the breaking of a man, and it all happens in his own mind.
I adore it.
Here is the text, so that everyone who reads this can adore it:
*In his dream, Richard is visited by the ghosts of everyone he has killed (11 people), and they prophesy his death in battle the next day*
[KING RICHARD III starts out of his dream]
Have mercy, Jesu!--Soft! I did but dream.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?
Methought the souls of all that I had murder'd
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard.
Gorgeous. A monster to act, because the thought process behind the direct contradictions has to be clear. How can he say "Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am" and make any sort of sense? I had been working on this for a long time, but I worried that the stage fright would drive it clean out of my head.
Instead, it worked for me. As I started out of the dream, I felt the adrenaline drill a hole in the bottom of my stomach. I shook all over. I knew I was wild-eyed and unable to hold still. And then I realized I looked as I was supposed to--frightened out of my mind. Nothing else could have prompted Richard's contemplation. Everything clicked into place, in an enforced method acting sort of way. When I said "Cold, fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh," it wasn't anything more or less than the truth. Of course, I am not Richard, but the rest flowed from there. It was wonderful.
Then I gave a voluntary extra-credit presentation on music in Shakespeare. It went beautifully, and I sang for the class, and my voice sounded better than it ever had in practice.
I then left, went to lunch with friends, felt loved.
I visited my Shakespeare professor in his office hours, and he praised me, and we talked about the class at length, chatting like friends (which I hope we are), and he asked to record my singing for future classes. He told me my recitation actually accomplished the monumental task of, in a given production of Richard III, reversing three hours of unabated villainy and inspiring sympathy for the wretched man. I couldn't believe it.
I attended a dear friend's talk on his huge paper, which was about a Norman Archbishop and the doctrine of transubstantiation and the cults of the saints. It was fascinating, and he did incredibly well.
I then returned to my room and, not having much work for tomorrow, watched the season finale of season two of Slings and Arrows, a show I have rapidly fallen head-over-heels in love with (and will probably devote an entire post to when I have time). It was brilliant, as expected. I laughed out loud, even alone in my room, and other parts made me want to cry, and the Shakespeare (yes, it's about a Shakespeare company) made me want to stand up and cheer.
It's a beautiful, sunny day outside.
Now I even have time to write some sort of personal reflection (this, in case you couldn't tell), something which has eluded me all term.
Yet, even as I write this, a gnawing fragment of panic sits in my stomach. I feel insecure and inadequate. I worry, worry, worry. So the question is obvious: why? Why the hell, after this bloody marvelous day, do I not feel more than 100% brilliant?
It has to do with my other classes, really. I'm in Astronomy, which is wonderful and I do very well in it because it's intro-level. But there's a final project coming up, and I don't feel I've at all done enough on it. I can't work on it now either, because it has to be observation done at night, so I feel helpless. The other is Spanish. Now, any of my friends could tell you I hate this class, not for the material, but for the professor. She's disorganized and terrible at reminding us to do things and not very interesting and an incredibly harsh grader. As a result, my grade has suffered. I plan to take the class Pass/Fail (called scrunching here), and I will pass, but years and years of working for the best possible result means that I feel like a failure for having to do that.
So actually, it has to do with my persistent self-esteem issues. Even now, on the most rewarding of days, I don't feel like I'm doing enough. A little bit of me hangs back, panicking, messing with my mind. It probably always will.
I just have to learn to get past it.
Sorry for angsting at whoever reads this. I just had to put it all down.
- Current Location:My dorm room
- Current Mood:Ecstatic and terrified
- Current Music:"Full fathom five," by Robert Johnson and William Shakespeare, from The Tempest
Now feeling a bit more qualified, I'd like to talk about opera. Because people say it's a dying art. People say it's inaccessible, and young people just don't appreciate it. People say it'll never survive in a world of hip hop, rap, and autotune.
I'm not here to make predictions. I don't know enough for that. But I'd like to make some arguments for why these dire prophecies shouldn't be true. And why opera is more accessible than most people think. In order to do this, I'm going to look at points against them and try my best to discredit them. Whether I'll succeed is up for debate. Whether it even matters -- whether anyone will even read this -- is similarly uncertain. Nevertheless, it will make me feel better if I try. So here goes.
Complaint #1: It's in a foreign language!
True. At least, true for a certain amount of it. But if you really, absolutely object to listening to opera in French, German, Italian, whatever, there are plenty of English operas out there. Henry Purcell springs to mind as a great example; one of the giants of the art, and as far as I know everything he wrote was in English. So let's be honest, this argument just doesn't stand.
Let's accept the premise for a moment, though. Let's say if you were to see one opera, it would have to be Tosca, but you just couldn't deal with not being able to understand the words. Except, even in the original Italian, you could. Because the artists who put on these shows are not idiots, and they know that outside of Italy, they won't get much comprehension. That's why opera has supertitles now! Big, easy-to-read translations are projected over the stage, and believe me when I say that even as a first-timer, I had no issues following them. That's the thing about singing; it takes longer than speaking. So you can read the words and still watch the actor's expression as he/she sings them. It's no different than subtitles in foreign movies. Or American ones! Hell, the characters in Avatar spent a good portion of the movie speaking in a language no one on Earth understands. Compared to that, Italian sounds downright reasonable.
Complaint #2: The plot is so complicated!
Not always. Sure, in Mozart's day every minor character got a subplot, but if you don't like that intricacy, turn to Puccini and his contemporaries. They were specifically dedicated to making things simpler, more accessible, and more real. Madama Butterfly has a plot I can summarize in two sentences: A naive Japanese girl marries an American douchebag, who promptly leaves her, not knowing she bears his child. Three years later he returns with his new American wife, everyone is suitably horrified, and Butterfly kills herself. Alright, there's a little bit more to it, but that's the main thrust, and it's clear, straightforward, and understandable.
Moreover, opera is one of the few performing arts that doesn't care if you know the ending. In fact, as you're walking in the door, they hand you a program that contains a plot summary for each act. And they want you to read it. Just like the above, it's a problem everyone knows some people have, and so there are concerted efforts to fix it.
Even beyond the fact that many operas are actually simple and you know the plot going in, let's just be honest with ourselves; almost no opera is going to be as weird and mind-blowing as something like Inception, and plenty of people have subjected themselves to -- and enjoyed -- that particular plot.
Complaint #3: Everything's so depressing and everyone dies!
Like the above, part of this is just over-generalization. Opera is incredibly diverse, and there are loads of comic operas for the seeing if you just can't stand death.
But again, how is this any different from other art forms? Literature, theater, film -- in each of these fields (and many others) quite a few of the classics are tragedy. It's a constant of artistic expression. If you like it in other venues, why not like it here? And if you don't like it, don't choose to watch it. Again, comedies exist.
Complaint #4: Everyone's singing all the time!
Alright, on this one, I'll declare my biases straightaway. I love singing as expression. This is part of what makes opera so awesome for me. I think that music is just the next step in inflection, a gorgeous mode of audible emotion. Even wordless music can make me exult or grieve, and adding lyrics only gives it more power.
I suppose if you don't like this, I can't fix it. But I would implore you to give it a chance. Do you like Glee? Well, opera's not that much different. It's just another style of music.
To me, singing is . . . well, if I were prone to using absolutes, I would say it's the ultimate form of expression. I generally avoid such concrete statements because I acknowledge that nearly everything -- and most especially art -- is subjective. Understand, though, that as someone who has been undeniably moved by producing and absorbing music, as someone who is considering a Music major, as someone who takes the time to write semi-pointless dissertations about opera, I cannot refrain from saying that the human voice is incomprehensibly beautiful, unfathomably emotional, and that I believe in it more fervently than anything else. That's right, music is probably the closest I'll ever get to having a religion. And that has got to be saying something about its worth.
Sorry I can't offer anything more coherent; it's one of those beliefs so deep-seated in my psyche that I have a hard time finding the words to describe it. That's quite unusual, for me. I'd like to end this, then, with part of a story I wrote some time ago, when I was pondering the ever-increasing number of artists in the music industry who can't actually sing, or hold a beat, or even speak interestingly. It's set in a future when computers make the music (not so different from parts of our world now), leaving humans out of the equation. I had a character go on a rant to express my feelings, and I like some of what I came up with. So here, in closing, is a defense of not just opera, but all music performed by people. This is why opera is worth listening to; because in the end, it is art of the purest sort. Enjoy.
“Music should not be perfect. The wonder and allure of music lies in the possibility of mistakes. Without that shadow of failure, there is no danger. There is no suspense, no excitement. Have you ever stood in front of an audience never knowing whether the next note will be in tune, whether you will miss a crucial pause, whether you will break like old glass under the strain? Walking on the edge of a cliff is exciting, don’t you agree? Well, that excitement is not because you will walk away safely if you step off the edge. It’s because you will plunge to your death. And believe me, a musician walks nothing so nice as a cliff. We balance on a knife blade, held aloft only by a vestige of talent. The fall is utter humiliation, the death of your art. That is danger. That is excitement. The beauty lies in a single voice, so pure, so insanely gorgeous, that it threatens to self-destruct in the piercing wail of a note higher than any other. It lies in tone of an instrument pushed to the brink, where one breath too many will ruin all hope of triumph. It lies in a moment that is a culmination of years of practice and struggle and tears. That is the beauty of music. Each new moment could see the end of perfection. And when music manages to triumph over danger, that is when it can achieve anything. Haven’t you ever heard music that buoys you up, that sets your heart racing, that moves you to tears, that arouses desire? Haven’t you ever heard music of such singular beauty that it sweeps you up in an ocean of sound, drowns you in chords so gorgeous that you never want to surface? Haven’t you ever sung music that shapes itself in your mouth so intricately and tenderly that it feels like a lover’s kiss? Haven’t you ever heard music so thick and rich and lush that you can taste it as it pours down your throat like warm chocolate? If not, you have not heard music, and I pity you.”
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: artistic
- Current Music:Prelude to Tristram und Isolde, by Wagner
* Physics, Quantum Mechanics, and Time Travel
* Women in Gaming
* Evolution, Creationism, and Gaming
* The Medieval Feast
* The Peloponnesian War
* Victorian Corsetry
Wandering the Exhibit Hall:
* Steampunk Clothing
* Marc Gunn
* Medievalist with the Rogue Song
* Watching Dr. Who and Torchwood
More to come at a later date/time. Rest assured all this stuff was incredibly cool.
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: geeky